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Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Man goes on trial accused of exposing daughter to Female Genital Mutilation

Written by Claire Hayhurst

A taxi driver allegedly told a passenger that his daughter had been the victim of female genital mutilation (FGM), saying that it was done "so women don't feel sexy all the time".

The father, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, denies a charge of cruelty on a child under the age of 16 in relation to the procedure allegedly carried out on the girl.

Bristol Crown Court (pictured) heard the 29-year-old, from inner-city Bristol, picked up passenger Sami Ullah - an anti-FGM campaigner - outside Bristol Temple Meads railway station in March 2016.

He allegedly told Mr Ullah that a lot of women in his Somali culture have "the big cut" but his daughter, seven, had been subjected to "the small cut".

Following the conversation, the girl was medically examined and found to have a "small lesion" on her genitals, prosecutor Anna Vigars said.

The jury of seven women and five men was told that the father was not accused of carrying out the procedure on his daughter himself.

Mrs Vigars, opening the case, said it related to female genital mutilation, also known as FGM, allegedly carried out on the defendant's daughter.

"It is a practice which is illegal in this country and which is being made illegal in many more countries around the world, but there are still some communities where FGM has wide support and is common," she said.

"It is a practice perhaps used to keep women and young girls in their place.

"It involves damage to their genitals and the message is 'you are not in a satisfactory condition when you are born - you must have this practice done to you to make you acceptable'.

"It is not something which is medically necessary."

She said Mr Ullah had been travelling back from the train station to the offices of the charity Integrate, where he worked, on March 9 2016.

Mr Ullah asked the driver - the defendant - whether he knew what FGM or female genital mutilation was and he did not, the court heard.

"Sami tried the word 'suna'.

"He [the defendant] said 'you mean to cut?'. Then he made a scissor motion with his fingers," Mrs Vigars said.

"He went on to say that people in his culture do it and it is wrong. Then the defendant said his daughter had had the small cut, but lots of people have the big cut.

"There was a discussion about where it had happened, about it being illegal, and the fact that his daughter had had the small cut while other people have the big one."

Mr Ullah went to the police following the conversation and the defendant's daughter, then aged seven, was medically examined.

Mrs Vigars said this revealed a "small lesion" to the girl's genitals but an examination a couple of months later did not find it - suggesting it had healed.

"That suggests it was not something that she had been born with," she added.

In police interview, the defendant denied that anything had been done to his daughter.

Mrs Vigars said the "painful procedure" was usually performed by someone from within the community and the defendant had allowed this to happen to his daughter.

"His responsibility is because he allowed his daughter to be exposed to this harm," she told the jury.

Apart from this allegation, she said there was no suggestion the defendant was a bad father, describing his daughter as "well nourished, clean, truly articulate, bright and sparkling".

Giving evidence, Mr Ullah said the defendant named the area of Bristol in which the procedure was conducted.

"I asked him if he knew it was illegal," he told the jury.

"He replied 'it's culture and tradition - some people do it, some people don't'.

"He asked me rhetorically 'do you know why we do it? So women don't feel sexy all the time'."

The defendant denies one charge of cruelty to a child under the age of 16 and the trial continues.

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